The story behind Bernard Rose‘s new-to-DVD Hollywood satire “2 Jacks” is as interesting as the movie itself promises to be. The film not only boasts some impressive literary antecedents, but also boasts the admirable curio of casting real-life relatives Danny Huston and Jack Huston as father and son. “2 Jacks” is based upon the 1865 Leo Tolstoy early short story “Two Hussars”, which contrasted the social and moral values of two generations. Danny Huston and Jack Huston play Jack Sr. and Jack Jr. (“2 Jacks”… Get it?), two men who play the “Hollywood game” in two distinctly different time periods.
The first half tells the story of Jack Hussar Sr.: “legendary film director, gambler, and seducer”, who is getting by in life more thanks to his famous name than by any recent achievements. He’s now middle-aged and wearing his years of hard living on his face. Still, Jack Sr. is not above throwing that famous name around and turning on the charm, a trick that works to the many sycophants and hangers-on who surround him. The audience is transported back to something of a Hollywood twilight zone. (The colors of the first half of the movie are severely dulled, almost to the point of black and white– presumably to create a “vintage” look). Logically, the story takes place in 1992. However, the overindulgent mores of the 1970’s seem to predominate; and, in the mandatory “Hollywood party scene”, the women inexplicably wear 1920’s-inspired fashions. Later on, Jack’s gambling and seducing skills both come in handy. This seasoned Hollywood hustler manages to snare funds to produce a pal’s movie from a card game (with the help of “two Jacks”. Get it again?) as well as to bed down with a beautiful but somewhat “out there” widow named Diana (Sienna Miller)– all in the same night.
Fast forward to the movie’s second half. We are now in a more brightly colored and fast-paced 2012 (complete with Smartphones, gossip websites, and celebrity blogs), and we meet handsome, twenty-something filmmaker Jack Hussar Jr. (played by Jack Huston, Danny’s real-life nephew) Like his famous father, he’s charming and a smooth talker. Also like his father, he’s not above hustling anyone he can to get what he wants. Presumably, what he wants is to make his movie. Destiny takes him to the home of a now middle-aged Diana (yes, that one…), played by ageless beauty Jacqueline Bisset. Diana now has a daughter of her own, a pretty blonde bon vivant named Lily (Rosie Fellner). Jack wastes no time in turning on the charm and the hustling skills that evening– in one scene almost milking a nice bit of money from his hostess during what should have been an innocent card game. (“As my father would say, ‘There’s no point in playing a game if it’s not playing for money!’“) But just how far will the younger Jack get? At this point, whether or not any movie gets made seems almost redundant.
The background of “2 Jacks” may be the initial calling card for many. However, even those may never read anything by Tolstoy or who are unfamiliar with the legacy of legendary director John Huston (real-life father to actor Danny, and reportedly an inspiration for the Jack Sr. character) will likely be intrigued by the movie’s idiosyncratic look at the Hollywood scene, combined with the zesty performances by the younger cast members. Other viewers may be averse to the film’s somewhat fantastical vibe and experimental structure. In this reviewer’s opinion, “2 Jacks” is still a gamble well worth taking.
“2 Jacks” is now available on DVD. Visit http://www.BreakingGlassPictures.com for more info.